Why We Ride: Women Writers on the Horses in Their Lives
edited by Verna Dreisbach

Seal Press, 2010. ISBN 978-1-580-05266-5.
Reviewed by Martha Meacham
Posted on 08/24/2010

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Animal Companions; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment

Horse Crazy. Little girls and big horses.

Apparently I am one of many middle-aged women who has not gotten over her first love. In this compilation of short essays, we get to the heart of our attraction. Why We Ride, edited by Verna Dreisbach, evokes childhood memories and presents vivid descriptions of the bond and unique communication with a horse that forms a relationship like no other. Maybe this bond exists because women of my generation grew up with Dale Evans, Fury, and National Velvet, but this book proves that plenty of women writers are willing to share stories about being horse crazy.

Like a gentle trot, the pace of the book easily shifts the reader from one story to another. If one tale isn't your particular style, a new one appears around the next bend. Perhaps a common thread among them all is that the authors tell of a deep, "authentic relationship without verbal communication." All authors share lessons learned from their experiences with these animals. And although this may not sound like a compliment, several authors' realism took me back to the acrid smell of horse barns emitting aromas of urine and manure. For a horse-lover this is a good thing!

My own life's lessons reawakened while I read experiences of mucking stalls and braiding manes and tails. From "A Horse of a Different Color" by Penny Porter that touched my heart as it told about raising Appaloosas, to Linda Ballou's story of riding in the mist on an Irish hunter while jumping rock walls and logs (just like National Velvet), these voices kept my rapt attention. Some, like Emily Alexander Strong's essay, had a memoir quality as Strong reflected on how she learned to face real world problems through what she learned from horseback riding.

A young reader (girls especially) might enjoy some of the stories in this book. However, most stories reflect a retrospective view of life, intertwined with details about horses that might not keep the interest of a younger reader. This book appealed to me not only because of the topic of the essays, but because each woman's voice communicated strength and vulnerability, sharing reflections on how changes occurred within herself as a result of her connection with her horse.

The editor Verna Dreisbach is an author, educator and literary agent. She is pursuing a graduate degree in Creative Writing in California. Visit her website.

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